Sam Abell: The Life of a Photograph

Publisher: National Geographic

A new book from Sam Abell coming out this month. I look forward to purchasing a copy and reading the book from cover to cover.

Publisher’s description:

Drawing on 40 years of fieldwork, The Life of a Photograph takes readers on assignment and inside the heart of a master photographer to witness the process of making a truly great picture. This exquisite book is organized by the known and unexpected themes of Abell’s work, ranging from his sensitive Portraits, beautiful Land, Sea, Sky and thought-provoking Wild Life to the surprising Just Looking (quirky scenes encountered on assignment), On the Road (photographs taken from automobiles), and The Built World (human impacts on pristine land). Anecdotes, explanations, and intriguing glimpses behind the scenes reveal the evolution—picture by picture and thought by thought—of some of the world's most interesting and recognized images and many never-before seen photographs as well. Selections cover geography and wildlife from the Arctic to the Amazon, and cultures from Australia to Japan to the American West. A beautiful gift for everyone who loves fine photography, this volume is not to be thumbed through once—it is a treasure that will be savored over and over again.

Inspiration: Sam Abell’s A Photographic Life

Whenever I need a dose of inspiration, Sam Abell’s A Photographic Life is my book of choice. He shares his eloquent thoughts and processes through a chronological highlight of his personal as well as professional life. Not only does his photographs move me but also his writing. On page 132-133, two photographs of the same scene are shown in the spread, one taken in the morning and the other at night.

Aran Island, Ireland 1993

I saw the sleeping horse from the roof of an inn where I was reading and taking in the rare sunshine. The scene below looked eccentrically interesting so I made a few photographs. When I moved on I forgot about it.

In the night I awoke and climbed out of the bedroom window to take in the moonlight. The horse was still there. Moonlight transformed the scene. What had looked eccentric in the afternoon now looked mysterious. I climbed back into the bedroom and in the dark put my camera and tripod together.

The night was still—rarer even than sunshine in the Aran Islands—but during the long exposure the horse's head blurred as it nodded off and on. I finished photographing, the horse was still standing there, but in the morning it was gone.

Mr. Abell has taught me to think deeper, to understand and to appreciate the photographic journey. Through his words, I now carry with me a certain consciousness that I was not previously aware of. Whenever I read a few pages from his book, it is enough for me to feel inspired again.

Sam Abell

"But there is more to a fine photograph than information. We are also seeking to present an image that arouses the curiosity of the viewer or that, best of all, provokes the viewer to think--to ask a question or simply to gaze in thoughtful wonder. We know that photographs inform people. We also know that photographs move people. The photograph that does both is the one we want to see and make. It is the kind of picture that makes you want to pick up your own camera again and go to work."